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Pet ducks that survived wildfires for 11 days up for adoption

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Two pet ducks called “true survivors” of the CZU Lightning Complex fires are available for adoption, according to the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (PHS/SPCA).

The pair, named Forest and Meadow, survived for 11 days in the active fire and evacuation zones.

“They lived with their owner who was evacuated due to the fires, but he wasn’t able to evacuate with them,” said PHS/SPCA spokesperson Buffy Martin Tarbox. “For eleven days the ducks avoided the fire and smoke, foraging for food and water sources until we were able to rescue them on Aug. 31 with the assistance of other agencies who provided an escort into the evacuated zone.”

The owner of the ducks lost his home in the fires, so he surrendered the pair to PHS/SPCA, which pledged to find a new home for the bonded pair. Forest is a male Mallard duck and Meadow a female Peking duck.

The adoption fee for the pair is $20.

“It is truly a miracle these birds survived everything. Since they are pet ducks, they are not used to having to fend for themselves in the wild, and especially in the middle of a raging wildfire,” Tarbox said. “They were covered in soot and ash, dehydrated, underweight and quite hungry when they arrived at our shelter. But Forest and Meadow are doing much better now and ready for a new home.”

PHS/SPCA is open for adoptions by appointment only. Call (650) 340-7022 to schedule an appointment.

PHS/SPCA provided safe shelter for 98 companion animals for fire evacuees in San Mateo County. Many of these animals have since been reunited with their families, according to the agency.

Photo credit: PHS/SPCA

Climate Magazine takes home 11 Press Club awards

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Climate Magazine was honored with multiple prizes for writing and photography in the 43rd annual San Francisco Peninsula Press Club Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards, collecting 11 awards including six first-place prizes. Climate’s Creative Director Jim Kirkland led the way, garnering six of the awards in the magazines and trade publications category for his distinctive design work and photography for Climate.

In a departure from years past, the awards were presented Sept. 17 in an online ceremony in accord with current Covid-related restrictions. A total of 226 entries was received, and the judging was done by four press clubs in other parts of the country.

Kirkland won awards for design or photography to illustrate stories on cruising, making it in radio, ghost hunting, California’s mounting pension problem, and tattoo art.  Kirkland’s striking layout for a story about managing pain won second place for cover design.

In the feature story category of a serious nature, writer Vlae Kershner received first place  for his story on preparing for the possibility of wildfire on the Peninsula.  Second-place in that category was awarded to Don Shoecraft, for his feature about longstanding issues surrounding immigration to America.

Climate Editor Janet McGovern won first place in the environment/nature report category for her story about the evolving contribution of sewage treatment plants to creating a cleaner San Francisco Bay.

Food writer Emily Mangini collected a first-place award in the columns-features category, and history writer Jim Clifford received a second-place award.

A magical playground awaits a bridge to opening

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Construction is nearing completion on the Magical Bridge Playground at Red Morton Park, but how soon Redwood City will be able to throw a ribbon-cutting event has a big Covid-19 question mark after it. “For the opening, we are at the will of the state,” says Chris Beth, the city’s director of parks, recreation and community services. “The order now is to have all playgrounds remain closed due to the gathering and touching of equipment issues.” When the state says it’s okay for parks to reopen, Beth adds, any required safety protocols such as wearing masks will be followed.

It will be worth the wait. Project Manager Claudia Olalla recently provided a sneak peek tour of the playground for this column. The playground is being constructed where a 40-by-100-foot picnic and play area used to be, between the Veterans Memorial Senior Center and an old armory building. First developed in Palo Alto, the Magical Bridge concept is designed to allow children and adults of all ages and varying physical and cognitive abilities a chance to play and enjoy the outdoors. That sounds like a nice concept. But in person this playground with its slides and its musical harp, its private hideouts and its two-story playhouse with adjoining treehouse are an imaginative embodiment of how much fun “accessibility” can mean. For anybody.

“The playground is built for all ages, all abilities and all are welcome,” Olalla says. “So the gamut is basically from 2 years old to 99. That’s kind of the way we see it.”

Providing all the gently sloping ramps with switchbacks to allow easy wheelchair access requires land, and the playground covers an entire acre. At the center is the Slide and Spin Zone, where five different slides mounted against a wall of green artificial turf funnels kids (or adults) down to a rubberized floor “carpeted” with beige and blue swirls representing the sand and the ocean. Amid all that: play apparatus including a wheelchair-accessible carousel and a “dish spinner” to lay down on and let gravity start the spinning. The whole area looks a bit like Disneyland without the teacups. Next to that is a colorful playhouse for storytelling, magic shows, concerts, plays and science demonstrations.

This story was originally published in the September edition of Climate Magazine. To view the magazine online, click on this link.

Responding to community desires, there’s a large Tot Zone with spring toys, a bucket swing and water slide that kids can turn on themselves. That area has one of several custom-built “retreat zones” throughout Magical Bridge where children who may be a little overwhelmed and need space can sit by themselves. Another area of the playground – the Swing and Sway Zone— offers a “sway boat” that an entire family can board and ride back and forth, and two-seater swings for kid-parent swing time. One of the last elements to be completed is an arch-shaped harp, which plays music when people walk under it. Floor lights will also illuminate when stepped on. One of the complications to finishing it, OIalla says, is that the artist lives in New York and could encounter a quarantine after she returns home. Covid again.

By mid-August, playground construction was approaching 100 percent completion with some separate projects including installation of a mosaic and donor tiles still to be done. The playground has four entrances, one of which is from a new picnic area that the parks department staff will be landscaping, in-house. In addition to an accessible restroom, more than 80 parking spaces will be added as a result of Magical Bridge.

So when coronavirus restrictions ease and this supercalifragilisticexpialidocious new playground finally get its grand opening, will it be the biggest thing since Chick-fil-A’s high-traffic debut? Olalla expects that the novelty “is going to be a little crazy” at first but notes that the city updates all its parks to keep pace with changing times and demographics. The Magical Bridge Playground is so different, in fact, that volunteers—especially teen-agers—are being recruited to show people around.

But from there, imagination at this very imaginative park will take over. “That’s the most amazing part of any design is that you never know how people will use the space,” Olalla says. “There’s an intention. There’s an idea. But people will always surprise you.” Of the total cost, it should be noted, more than $3.3 million was raised by the Magical Bridge Foundation and the remainder of the $6.8 million is from the city’s park impact fee paid by residential developers.

Kaiser Permanente’s Redwood City hospital was among 12 Northern California medical centers singled out in Newsweek magazine’s recent “Best Maternity Hospitals 2020” report for providing exceptional maternity care. The national designation, awarded to only 231 hospitals in the United States, identifies leading maternity care programs that have met or exceeded rigorous quality and safety standards. Kaiser Permanente has a total of 22 hospitals in the nation that received the elite designation, representing nearly 10 percent of those named to the prestigious list – and nearly 50 percent of those listed in California, according to Kaiser. For 2019, 2,213 babies were born at the Redwood City hospital, and by July this year, there were already 1,261 deliveries.

A colorful mural that has been painted at Roosevelt Plaza shopping area is the work of artist Talavera-Ballón. Shopping center owner Maria Rutenberg had admired the mural across the street at Key Market and approached the Redwood City Parks & Arts Foundation about working together on another mural for her center. It was commissioned by the foundation on behalf of the Redwood City Sesquicentennial Committee, according to foundation board member Cary Kelly. An historic theme was selected, and Talavera-Ballón’s mural includes scenes from Redwood City’s early days as a port, the Frank Tannery leather factory—as well as the period when the city was known for its floral industry and many Japanese chrysanthemum growers.

Elevated high above the parking lot via a lift, Talavera-Ballón started painting in June, putting in full days six days a week. For many of them, his wife, Mariela, was down below lot talking to passers-by and giving her husband from-the-ground feedback. She’s the reason, in fact, why the Peruvian artist is in the United States painting murals, he says. They met in his country when she was visiting and attended one of his exhibitions. She liked his painting so much that she bought one. After she got home, their connection continued via the Internet and eventually developed into a long-distance relationship. They got married and live in San Francisco’s Mission District. Mariela works for the Redwood City School District.

Though Talavera-Ballón is a fine artist, he says his wife wanted him to paint murals too, which he’d never done before. Then one day he saw a friend of his working on a mural on a building at Van Ness Avenue and Market Street. Talavera-Ballón, 46, wanted to give it a try and volunteered to take a 9 a.m.-to-noon shift. The time flew. “What?” he protested when he was told it was noon. “I just came here. Twelve o’clock?” So he asked to take the afternoon shift too. Since then, he’s painted about a half dozen murals and loves having a jumbo canvas.

“For an artist, for a painter, it’s the same thing I think to be a musician and give a concert, a big big concert,” he says, waving his arms for emphasis. “It’s the same feeling. People are watching you. They say hi. They talk to you and the interruption with the people as you are painting something so, so big is a challenge. It’s everything. … If I were a musician and I played every day in a little bar and then somebody came to me and say, ‘Tomorrow you going to give a big concert in Central Park New York.’ It’s the same thing.”

Kelly says this is the fourth mural in Redwood City that has been created through Community Advocacy Through Art, an organization under the Parks & Arts Foundation umbrella which works to use art to raise awareness of social issues and participated in selecting the artist.

Rutenberg, who paid half the cost, is delighted with the mural. “I think it’s gorgeous, and I like the proportion and the color. I like everything.”

Zoppé Circus set for drive-in format in Redwood City

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The Zoppé Italian Family Circus is set to return to Redwood City next month, but with a new location and with a drive-in format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At its meeting Monday, the City Council of Redwood City is set to approve a live performance agreement with the circus that has traveled to the city to perform annually since 2008. Last year, over 12,250 tickets were sold through 36 shows held at Red Morton Park over four weeks, the city said.

Due to COVID-19, the city determined a drive-in option is the only viable way to proceed with shows in 2020. The Port of Redwood City has agreed to use their main parking lot as a drive-in venue, the city said. Shows are set to run from Oct. 1 to Oct. 25.

The circus recently completed a drive-in style performance in Ventura. Redwood City staff visited the performance to get an understanding of the requirements in place to hold safe shows, such as processes for attendee arrival, contactless ticket check, the addition of a jumbotron to aid viewing of closer-up functions, audio broadcasting and safety messaging to people in cars.

“Staff have coordinated the required services to complete the production requirements,” city staff said.

San Mateo police officers save choking child’s life

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San Mateo police officers are credited for saving the life of a child who had stopped breathing while choking on a grape on Wednesday.

At about 2:25 p.m., police were called to the 500 block of E. Poplar Avenue after a mother witnessed her child stop breathing. The responding officers — Michael Nguyen, Camille Cosca and Stephen Bennett (pictured above from left to right) — were first on scene and performed life-saving measures including CPR before the arrival of paramedics. Along with helping to revive the child, the officers provided Spanish translation from the family to the paramedics, “helping direct the type of medical care needed,” according to the San Mateo Police Department.

“The child is currently in critical, but stable condition,” police said.

Grapes are among the foods considered to be potential choking hazards by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. In fact, “grapes are the third most common cause of food related choking after hot dogs and sweets,” according to a case report published in the BMJ Journal Archive of Disease in Childhood.

You don’t have to be a cop to save a life. The American Red Cross is offering first aid and CPR training online. To learn more, visit here.

Photo credited to the San Mateo Police Department

County health officer declares health emergency due to fires

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San Mateo County’s health officer declared a local health emergency Wednesday in areas impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex fires, “after determining that hazardous waste that may be on site is an immediate threat to public health,” the County said.

Debris and ash from structure fires “can contain hazardous substances such as building materials or chemicals from household items,” according to County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow.

The declaration, set to be ratified at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 15, expands an Aug. 28 emergency regulation to allow temporary access to private property for damage estimates.

“The new declaration further clarifies that County staff and contractors can enter private property as necessary to remediate hazardous waste or waste that could become hazardous,” the County states.

The action could also free up additional funding to help local communities recover from the CZU Lightning Complex fires, which began Aug. 16 and have covered 86,609 acres across both San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. The fire is currently 83 percent contained and has destroyed at least 1,490 structures, including 59 in San Mateo County.

“The emergency declaration will help ensure the safety of our residents as they return home, as well as our environment, by facilitating the removal of toxic metals and hazardous materials from the burned areas,” said Environmental Health Services Director Heather Forshey.

For more information on the fire recovery, visit here.

Photo credit: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office

Wallethub ranks College of San Mateo third best in nation

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The College of San Mateo ranked third in the nation and first in the state for Best Community Colleges in an analysis done by Wallethub.

Wallethub ranked more than 650 community colleges based upon 18 key indicators of cost and quality, including the cost of in-state tuition and fees to student-faculty ratio to graduation rate and career outcome. Skyline and Canada colleges were not among the 77 California community colleges analyzed in the rankings.

The College of San Mateo came in third in the U.S. with an overall score of 69.78, ranking 80th overall in cost and financing and 18th overall in career outcomes.

The State Technical College of Missouri earned the top overall score at 74.5, followed by Arkansas State University-Mountain Home at 69.78.

“During the 2019 to 2020 academic year, tuition and fees for full-time, in-state enrollment at a public two-year college averaged $3,730 per year versus $10,440 at a public four-year institution and $36,880 at a four-year private school,” Wallethub reported. “Students who earn their general-education credits at a community college before transferring to an in-state public four-year university can potentially save a lot of money.”

To view Wallethub’s full list of best and worst community college systems and to learn more about its methodology, go here.

Off-duty RWC cop pulls victims from burning car in Truckee

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An off-duty Redwood City police detective helped pull two juvenile victims involved in a fiery crash to safety in Truckee Thursday night, authorities said.

At about 11:22 p.m., Detective Matt Cydzik came across a solo-vehicle crash on Interstate Highway 80 near Donner Pass Road where the vehicle was becoming engulfed in flames, according to Redwood City police and the CHP.

Cydzik sprang into action and pulled two juveniles from the vehicle with assistance from a CHP officer.

“Both juveniles were transported to the hospital via two air ambulances and we are hopeful of their recovery,” the CHP said. No drugs are suspected in the crash, and the CHP believes speeding was a factor.

“When told earlier today that he was a hero, [Det. Cydzik] responded by saying ‘just doing the same thing we would all do!,'” according to the Redwood City Police Department. “He also mentioned that other bystanders were extremely helpful and he personally thanked them for their assistance.”

San Carlos Farmers’ Market to reopen in new location Sept. 6

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The San Carlos Farmers’ Market is set to reopen Sunday, Sept. 6, at a new location near Devil’s Canyon Brewing Co., Russian Ridge Winery and Cuvée Wine Cellars.

The market announced Friday it will open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays at Bayport Avenue at Varian Street, the Industrial Arts District. Parking is available on Bing Street.

The market has been closed since the start of the shelter in place order. It was formerly located at 700 Laurel St., a location currently being used for outdoor dining to support local restaurants amid the pandemic.

“We thank the City of San Carlos for supporting this move so we can bring back our beloved farmers market,” the market announced on social media. “With the restaurants allowed to serve in the street, we are so pleased to find a new location by right by our amazing wineries and Devil’s Canyon Brewing Co.!”

The brewery was equally pleased about its new neighbor, stating on Facebook, “We’re so glad that you are all pumped for us to reopen, and we have some good news! Starting Sunday, September 6th, we’re welcoming and participating in the San Carlos Farmer’s Market! And guess where it is… Right outside the Beer Garden!”

No dogs will be allowed in the market. The market will require strict COVID-19 guidelines, including mask-wearing at all times.

Photo credit: San Carlos Farmers’ Market Facebook.

SMC indoor barbershops, malls can reopen Monday

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Starting Monday, Aug. 31, San Mateo County hair salons and barbershops will be allowed to operate indoors, and retail and shopping malls in the county can open at a maximum 25 percent capacity, based upon Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new color-coded COVID-19 reopening system.

The color-coded system ranks counties based on COVID-19 case counts and positivity rate.

San Mateo County is currently in the most concerning purple tier denoting a “widespread” county risk level. Counties in this tier have more than seven new daily cases per 100,000 residents and more than 8 percent positive tests. San Mateo County currently has 8.6 new positive cases per 100,000 residents and a 4.8 percent positivity rate, the state says.

“Although San Mateo County’s positivity rate falls in the ‘moderate’ risk level, the stricter tier takes precedence,” county officials said.

At a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks before moving to a new tier.

Being in the purple tier keeps bars, concert venues, and piercing shops closed, among other activities. Click here and type in San Mateo County and scroll down to see guidance on businesses can can open or remain closed.

Local officials still dispute being placed on the state monitoring list last month. County Manager Mike Callagy said the loosened restrictions are a good sign.

“We have repeatedly said that the spread of the virus in our community is not linked to businesses like hair salons and we could see the economic hardship on those businesses that couldn’t modify to operate outdoors,” Callagy said in a statement. “We are very happy to see them reopen and with the effort of our residents to wear face coverings and avoid large gatherings, we hope to soon move to the next tier and loosen even more restrictions.”

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